Kmiec resigns, effective on the Feast of the Assumption

It has to be the most conspicuously religious resignation letter President Obama has received, coming from a high-profile Catholic in his administration:

Douglas Kmiec, U.S. Ambassador to Malta, plans to resign from his post on August 15. Kmiec’s resignation follows the release of a State Department report which criticized him for a number of alleged infractions, including spending, “an inordinate amount of time reviewing his writings, speeches, and other initiatives.”

In a letter addressed to President Obama, dated April 13, Kmiec wrote, “With the highest respect for your leadership and with some understanding of the difficulty and complexity of the challenges that you and Secretary Clinton face each day, I ask that you accept my resignation effective on the feast of the Assumption, 2011.”

While his resignation does follow criticism from the State Department, Kmiec expressed in a statement to the people of Malta that his resignation is completely voluntary: “I know it is popular to think that all resignations are forced or motivated by some hidden reason.  Anyone who has ever played cards with me knows I cannot keep the happiness of an Ace quiet anymore than I can disguise the disappointment of an unneeded or disappointing deuce.  My resignation is not a product of force unless one means by force – the force of principle.”

Read more.

Kmiec became a lightning rod for criticism after this former member of the Reagan Administration supported Barack Obama for president in 2008 — and was later denied communion over it.  He wrote about that experience here.  (The priest who did it was later reprimanded by Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony.)


  1. Frank Hannon says:

    Maybe the Ambassador is just making time for himself to campaign again in support of Obama’s reelection bid.

    Absent that, I look forward to seeing his letter of apology for shilling for Obama the first time around!

  2. There’s a missing piece here. There must be more to the story.

    The State Department Report cites things that would indicate poor management. But how hard can it be to manage an embassy in a country with 300,000 people?

    His qualifications? He’s a lawyer and university professor, a Catholic in a country where the official religion is Catholicism.

    By the way, Shirley Temple was ambassador to Ghana under George Ford and ambassador to Czechoslovakia under G. H. W. Bush.

  3. Correction:

    Population of Malta is a little over 400,000.

  4. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony does not believe in the Magestrium apparently.

    From the Pope himself:

    “5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

    “6. When ‘these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,’ and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it’ (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration ‘Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics’ [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.”

    The good Cardinal could be brought up on heresey charges for violating Canon 750, par. 1 of the Code of Canon Law.

    This canon, in essence, forbids every Catholic from publicly denying a core tenet of the Catholic Faith. When a Catholic publicly supports the right to choose abortion, he adheres to the Right-to-Murder Heresy, more commonly known as the “Right to Choose” error.

    Why reprimand a priest who denies Communion to a pro-abortion politician? The Vatican and the Pope state that is what you are supposed to do.

    Evangelium Vitae, the U.S. bishops’ 1998 statement on ‘Living the Gospel of Life,’ and the 2002 ‘Doctrinal Note’ from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith all plainly teach that there is no legitimate diversity of opinion on abortion and euthanasia within the communion of the Catholic Church.

    The reason why Cardinal Roger Mahony attacked the priest on the Communion issue? Mahony is a big Obama fan.

  5. George, you’ve managed to equate an individual’s support for a politician who has a pro-choice stance as an endorsement of abortion. Is it possible, in your world view, that anyone on this planet might support a candidate for reasons OTHER THAN the candidate’s stance on abortion? Or are you, in effect, arguing that the only good Catholic voter — the only type of Catholic voter who should be eligible to receive communion — is someone who always bases his or her vote on a single issue?

    I could not support that most “Christian” and “pro-life” president, George W. Bush, partly because he was so eager to go to war in Iraq — going so far, in fact, as to hurry the weapons inspectors out of Iraq, even though they were busy at that point determing (correctly, as it turned out) that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Never mind that, Bush said — we’re going in anyway: shock and awe, and bombs dropping on military and civilian targets alike, but yes, he claimed to be pro-life. Mr. Bush’s lack of respect for human life meant that I could not, in good conscience, vote for him in 2004 (and in 2000, he was an almost gleeful supporter of killing people in Texas prisons — again, not truly pro-life in my book). However, I have some friends who are Republicans, and some of them manage to come up with reasons to support Bush in 2004 other than his decision to pursue an elective war. In other words, they saw the choices before them in a complex way, and they did not vote for him solely because he was eager to bomb Iraq.

    I do not believe Mr. Kmiec has ever identified himself as “pro-choice,” nor did he ever say he was voting for and supporting Barack Obama because of Obama’s stance on legalized abortion. (If I’m mistaken, I hope you will point to the specific evidence where Mr. Kmiec indicates otherwise.)

    It must be very convenient for Republicans to point to abortion as the “reason” every Catholic must vote for the Republican candidate in every presidential election; however, you might want to ask yourself whether the GOP is actually more interested in having abortion around as a sure-fire fund-raising, get-out-the-vote issue, since so few Republican presidents or Congresses have actually wanted to DO anything to push for a human life amendment to the constitution. (Remember Mr. Bush? He said he wouldn’t push for such an amendment until a “culture of life” — widespread agreement on the need to outlaw abortion — already existed. So much for presidential leadership, right?) Yes, the GOP wants you to believe it’s leading the way on the pro-life front. The GOP does indeed have a nifty way of suggesting that one is a bad Catholic for supporting a pro-choice Democrat who is great on other (life-affirming) issues such as equal access to health care and proper funding for WIC and education.

  6. Steve,

    Before you ever need health care or WIC or education, you need life. I have trouble voting for someone who stands up to support a state law that says even if a baby is born alive, there should be no medical intervention if the mother was having an abortion.

    Your description of Bush as “gleeful” when sending troops into harms way is not an honest depiction of what I saw and heard during the debate leading up to the war. (How many UN resolutions did the leader of Iraq ignore?) And it didn’t take long for Obama to increase troop levels in Afghanistan or to send our airmen flying into Libya. Nato is even now debating how much more should be done.

    One of the deacons at my church proudly had an Obama yard sign displayed for several months. When asked about Obama’s stance on abortion, my deacon said it didn’t matter. I find that statement to be incredible.

    I continue to pray for all our leaders, that they be granted wisdom and courage.

  7. Steve,

    I will post some stats on your hero Obama that probably even you can’t spin.

    November 24, 2008 – Obama appoints Ellen Moran, the former director of the pro-abortion group Emily’s List as his White House communications director.

    January 22, 2009 – Releases statement restating support for Roe v. Wade decision that allowed virtually unlimited abortions and has resulted in at least 50 million abortions since 1973.

    January 23, 2009 – Forces taxpayers to fund pro-abortion groups that either promote or perform abortions in other nations. Decision to overturn Mexico City Policy sends part of $457 million to pro-abortion organizations.

    February 27, 2009 – Starts the process of overturning pro-life conscience protections President Bush put in place to make sure medical staff and centers are not forced to do abortions.

    March 26 – President Obama announced $50 million for the UNFPA, the UN population agency that has been criticized for promoting abortion and working closely with Chinese population control officials who use forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations.

    May 8 – President Obama’s budget eliminates all federal funding for abstinence-only education.

    August 24 – Releases veterans guide promoting euthanasia.

    December 17 – Signed a bill that overturned the 13-year-long ban on funding abortions with tax dollars in the nation’s capital.

    August 16, 2010 – Obama administration approves new abortion drug Ella.

    December 14, 2010 – Obama administration admits it is working to rescind conscience protections for medical professionals who don’t want to participate in abortions.

    Oh yeah, Steve. Obama still has Gitmo open, still has troops in Iraq, and tripled the number of troops in Aghanistan, increased warrantless espionage on Americans, and started bombing Pakistan. Plus, throw in bombing Libya etc., etc.

    So in summation. Obama supports a culture of abortion and war. Hypocrisy.

  8. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Ladies and gentlemen…

    I can see where this is headed. Please stay on topic and avoid getting into a political debate.

    Thank you.

    Dcn. G.

  9. naturgesetz says:

    George — Canon 751 defines heresy, and it definitely does NOT say that heresy includes violations of canon law. So the idea of a heresy charge based on Canon 750 (which, btw, is not divided into paragraphs in my copy) makes no sense.

    Furthermore, in the material you quote, the Pope is not proposing a matter of divinely revealed faith, but giving guidance: “… the Pastor should meet with him …” (not “must” meet with him) (emphasis added). If such a meeting takes place and the politician is obstinate, then Holy Communion is to be denied. But it’s not a matter of heresy if the Pastor does not meet the politician.

    But Kmiec was never a politician, so even though a politician should be denied Communion if he’s obstinate after being warned, the words you quote provide no justification for denying Communion to Doug Kmiec.

    Whatever Cardinal Mahony’s faults, he clearly got this one right. Even the priest who denied Communion later apologized, as noted by Doug Kmiec in the pice he wrote which Deacon Greg linked.

  10. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    It might be worth remembering this pronouncement by Cardinal Ratzinger a few years back.

  11. @ naturgesetz

    You wrote: “Whatever Cardinal Mahony’s faults, he clearly got this one right.”

    Do do realize the official church position is to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians, right?

    So how can the Cardinal be right to rebuke a priest who simply was following the Church’s regulations on the issue?

    Is this the ‘pick and chose’ Magesterium?

    A reporter aboard the Alitalia plane chartered to transport the Pope to Brazil Wednesday asked Pope Benedict XVI if he supported the Mexican bishops in their warning to politicians who supported legalizing abortion that they would face excommunication. The Pope responded saying, “Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ.”

    Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi later told reporters that the politicians who voted for abortion had automatically excommunicated themselves by their actions.

    And you still think the Cardinal is correct to reward pro-abortion politicians?

  12. The most notable opposition in that vein came from the now-retired Archbishop of Washington, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, who chaired a committee of bishops on the subject of how to deal with pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

    McCarrick received direct guidance on the subject from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The letter indicated that persistently pro-abortion Catholic politicians, once they had been warned, “must” be denied Communion. Not only did McCarrick publicly refuse to follow Ratzinger’s directives himself, he concealed Ratzinger’s communication from even some of the Bishops who were on the committee.

    The Ratzinger intervention was later leaked to the media in Rome and confirmed as authentic by Ratzinger’s then-office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

  13. You keep skipping over something, George. What makes KMIEC a pro-abortion politician? His support for Obama, as the link the Deacon posted indicates, is not enough to bar him from communion.

  14. naturgesetz says:

    George — “Do do realize the official church position is to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians, right?

    So how can the Cardinal be right to rebuke a priest who simply was following the Church’s regulations on the issue?”

    In answer to your first question: Yes. But it’s irrelevant because Douglas Kmiec is not and was not a politician. He was a professor, and now he’s a bureaucrat.

    In answer to your second question, which I already answered in my earller comment: the regulation has nothing to do with the case since Doug Kmiec was not a politician, nor had he voiced support for legalized abortion. Beyond that, if Douglas Kmiec had been a politician, the priest would have been required, under Pope Benedict’s guidelines, to have met with him and warned him that he risked being denied Communion if he continued to support abortion (even though he didn’t support it). Since, as far as we know, the priest did not do what he was supposed to do for a politician, he was clearly not following any regulation on this issue. And of course the cardinal is right to rebuke a priest who is not following Church regulations — especially since under the circumstances it was a grave violation of Douglas Kmiec’s right to receive the sacrament.

  15. @ naturgestez

    You certainly go to any length to defend a man who supports abortions.

    Douglas Kmiec official position with the Obama admin is “Political appointee” to Ambassador to Malta which required him to be sworn into office.

    Douglas Kmiec has publicly supported Obama despite warnings that it was contrary to position of the church prior to the priest withholding communion. In addition, Kmiec is on record supporting gay marriage in California. Isn’t that also against the official Vatican position as well?

    How did Kmiec describe Notre Dame’s faithfuls opposition to pro-abortion Obama speaking there? We live at a time,” Kmiec said, “when even at some great universities, a spirit of narrow-mindedness sets in over a spirit of inquiry.”

    And since you don’t know the Canon very well, any Catholic can be denied the Communion for supporting abortion not just a politician. Canon Law n.915. Canon Law is the Church’s Sacred Discipline and is binding on all Catholics, not just politicians, who reject Church law.

    Example: Cardinal Maradiaga in 2007: “It is canon law that everyone who works for abortion is excommunicated. If you favor abortion, you are outside the communion of the Church.”

    Kmiec endorsed Barack Obama for president and penned a book, “Can a Catholic Support Him?” despite knowing Obama pro-abortion stance.

  16. Jean Albre says:

    As you draw attention to, Kmiec designates the Assumption for his resignation.
    Is that appropriate for a Civil official, especially one who claims he can support a candidate for political reasons when that same candidate stands for gravely immoral practices?

    Perhaps Kmiec is having a conversion experience?

    Or perhaps he wants to get out of Obama’s Lybian war zone.

  17. The man was supposed to be an ambassador. It sounds like he’s spending more time on his hobby than his job.

  18. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    Remember, the State Department report cutting Kmiec apart had as one of its main criticisms that he paid too much attention to religion.
    So, was his choice of the Feast of the Assumption as the official day of his resignation a message saying: “In your face!!”

  19. deaconnecessary says:

    I would like some clarification, please.
    The impression I am getting from some of you is that a Catholic can’t even vote for Obama, because if you do then you support abortions and would be automatically excommunicated?

  20. deaconnecessary says:

    Deacon Greg, forgive my previous post… I did not notice your remarks in no. 8.
    But I was actully trying to figure out the logic presented here, not necessarily (no pun intended) wanting to get poltical.

    [:-) No problem! Just trying to keep things in line. Check out my link in #10 to answer your previous question. Dcn. G.]

  21. Very interesting interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke on the issue.

    1) Question: “There are many Catholics who believed that to vote for Obama – knowing his promises to extend child-killing even further – that to knowingly vote for him under those circumstances was a type of cooperation with moral evil. It was cooperating with evil. Do you concur with that and if so, why?”

    Cardinal Raymond Burke – “Well, the fact of the matter is, it is a form of cooperation, because by voting we put a person in office. And people say, “What does my vote matter?” Well, your vote is either a vote to put someone in office who will do what is right and just, or someone who won’t. And so if you, knowing that abortion is a grave crime against human life – is the killing of an innocent, defenseless human life – and you vote for the candidate who says that he intends to make that more available – that practice of infanticide – you bear a responsibility. That is, you have cooperated in the election of this person into office, there’s no question about it.”

    2) In his interview, Cardinal-designate Burke also urged Catholic politicians who have caused “scandal” by endorsing positions contrary to moral law to repent through a “genuine reform of heart.”

    “That’s done through the Sacrament of Penance,” he said, adding that political figures must publicly “renounce” their errors, recognizing and recanting the “evil” they have promoted.

  22. naturgesetz says:

    George — Canon 915 refers to cases of “manifest grave sin,” obstinately persisted in. But the cooperation in abortion in supporting a pro-abortion candidate is doubly remote. In the first place, even the politician is giving only remote cooperation, since he is not participating in the actual abortions. And then the voter is further remote, since he does not actually vote for any bill having to do with abortion or make any executive decision on the matter. And as you ought to know, the gravity of any act is reduced by the degree of remoteness from the evil involved. So the act of supporting a politician who will act in ways which enable still others to perform or obtain abortions is not to be judged as being as grave as actually performing or obtaining an abortion.

    I don’t believe that one should vote for a pro-abortion politician, and I have voted against candidates from my party when they supported abortion. But I think it would be contrary to accepted principles of moral theology to claim that supporting pro-abortion politicians is manifest grave sin.

    But even if you could overcome the lack of manifest grave sin in the Kmiec case, you’re still up against the requirement of obstinacy before Communion is to be refused. One is not obstinate until one has been admonished by one’s pastor and persists in the sin. And Prof. Kmiec’s pastor had evidently not admonished him prior to the incident. So there was no obstinacy, and the denial of Communion was not supported by Canon 915 in this particular case. That means that the priest violated Canon 912.

    It is because Canon 915 applies only to obstinate sinners that Pope Benedict put the condition of meeting with the politician in the document you previously quoted.

  23. naturgesetz says:

    And I agree with Deacon Bresnahan that making the resignation effective on “the feast of the Assumption,” not even merely saying “August 15,” is an “in your face” to the State Department. Beyond that, it is a very public profession of his Catholicism, which, under the circumstances, can be read to mean that this faith is more important to him than being ambassador — which is, of course, as it should be.

  24. You do realize Douglas Kmiec personally attacked Pope Benedict on this issue of abortion?

    1) Kmiec Calls Pope’s Comments “Intrusive”

    2) An official from the Vatican’s Secretary of State department has reacted to the recent suggestion that Pepperdine professor Douglas Kmiec should become the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican by saying, “it will never happen.”

    The official noted that prominent American Catholics at the Vatican – such as Cardinal James Francis Stafford or Archbishop Raymond Burke – look at Kmiec as a “traitor,” and “their opinion will certainly count heavily.”

    But most importantly, the official said, is that the Holy See will not risk alienating vital U.S. Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus or the American branch of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, “whose role in the life of the universal Church is decisive, and who have already expressed publicly their disappointment with Kmiec’s role in the recent elections.”

  25. “Personally attacked” is not quite accurate; “disagreed” is a better description.

  26. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    The Holy See will not risk alienating vital U.S. Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus or the American branch of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, “whose role in the life of the universal Church is decisive, and who have already expressed publicly their disappointment with Kmiec’s role in the recent elections.”

    That means, I presume, big benefactors?

    Dcn. G.

  27. naturgesetz says:

    George — it’s good to go to a wider view of Doug Kmiec.

    It was highly unfortunate that he gave a rationalization for supporting Obama that probably helped many Catholics vote for him. I was very unhappy with him at the time.

    It’s also unfortunate that, as the blog you linked indicates, he misunderstood the meaning of the Pope’s words on jurists. (And BTW, on matters such as that particular declaration, it is possible for Popes to apply basic principles poorly, especially if they are not thoroughly familiar with the situation they are talking about. Not every word from a pope is necessarily well said or prudent. He has full, supreme, and immediate jurisdiction, but he isn’t exercising it every time he opens his mouth and expresses an opinion.) I hadn’t been aware of that disagreement, because, frankly, I don’t think I had ever heard of him before the election, and after the election was over, he no longer mattered to me.

    It seems to me that, whatever his errors, he sincerely thought that what he was saying and doing fell within the sphere of personal freedom and responsibility which the laity bear to apply their Catholic faith to the realities of their lives. I hope he continues to strive to be loyal to the Catholic faith.

  28. naturgesetz says:

    In other words, I never cared for Doug Kmiec, but anybody the State Department dislikes can’t be all bad.

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